What would you say to a new live-action, anthology series based on the short stories of legendary sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, funded by UK’s Channel 4, and produced by Ronald D. Moore and Bryan Cranston? Could you maybe squeeze time into your busy schedule for 10 episodes of speculative fiction, from a writer’s room whose credits include : Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Justified, Doctor Who, and The Night Manager? Sounds awesome, right? Well, good news, it’s called Electric Dreams and it’s coming soon to Amazon Prime.
Anthology series were a regular staple in the early days of television (Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents), but in recent years the standalone format has fallen out of favor. Yet, many people will tell you that their all-time favorite TV episodes were one-off stories, like “Home” (X-Files Season 4) or “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3).
Fortunately, for those of us with episodic storytelling surging through our bloodstreams, the form came back in a big way with 2011’s Black Mirror, which was also incidentally a UK Channel 4 production (Netflix released Season 3 in 2016). As purveyors of sci-fi conspiracy fiction, we know there are no coincidences.
The late Philip K. Dick is considered one of sci-fi’s most prolific writers, with 121 short stories and more than 40 published novels before his death in 1982 — including one posthumously — which shows how much his work was valued. His works have been called complex, layered, and farsighted; often delving into hot-button topics like authoritarianism, racism, and the other “isms.” Dick himself is alleged to have experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, which may explain the mind-altering concepts evident in many of the film adaptations of his work, such as Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), Minority Report (2002), and A Scanner Darkly (2006).
More recently, Amazon has enjoyed tremendous critical acclaim and popular success in their serialized version of Dick’s classic “The Man in the High Castle,” which suggested an alternate WWII resolution; wherein the Axis powers prevailed. Season 1 was their most-watched original content of 2015, Season 2 is currently 4.7/5 Stars on Amazon Prime, and Season 3 is creeping around the bend.
Electric Dreams represents something of a gamble for Amazon, a dramatic throwback to the era of The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. Considering that the bulk of contemporary scripted television is laser-focused on telling long-form stories, heavy with continuity and universe-building, Amazon is rolling the dice that there’s an audience for hard science fiction dealing in dense, nuanced stories based on Dick’s exhaustive backlog. Perhaps to draw in a more mainstream viewership, headline stars like Cranston have signed on for future episodes.
So far, only one episode has been announced: The Commuter. Ed Jacobson, played by Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies), is a mild-mannered public servant working at a UK train station, when he notices a group of mysterious commuters boarding a train that shouldn’t exist. Jacobson stumbles into an alternate reality where he encounters doppleganger versions of his wife and son, and must confront his failures as husband and father. Yeah, that sounds pretty much like this author to me, if you know what I mean.
Are you up for some Amazon-Primed, edgy sci-fi storytelling? Let us know in the comments down below!
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